Monday, May 07, 2007

New book by Tolkien is a thing of wonder

Books now read in ’07: 41
Title: The Children of Húrin
Author: J.RR. Tolkien
Genre: Fantasy
Date Completed: 5-6
Pages: 259

A new book by J.R.R. Tolkien is a thing of wonder.

I first read the Lord of the Rings trilogy more than 40 years ago as a high school freshman. Tolkien died more than 30 years ago in 1973. How is it then that we have this book?

Apparently, The Children of Húrin, a tale of the Elder Days, is among Tolkien’s earliest writings. The book was resurrected from his papers by his son, Christopher. Christopher, who also edited The Silmarillion, gives us the book with “a minimum of editorial presence.”

Readers of The Hobbit and the LOTR will find this new work both familiar and yet vastly different from those previous books. Familiar in that it inhabits the same world as LOTR – although it is set in a far earlier time. Hobbits are missing, but Elves, Dwarves and Orcs and a nasty dragon are here.

The difference – and I think it is the difference that lifts The Children of Húrin into something wondrous – is largely in the tone of this stately book. It is a somber book. The tale of Túrin and Niënor, is one of great and inescapable sorrow. The Children of Húrin is Shakespearean in the inevitability of the doom that stalks its characters. Doom that is only delayed that it may cast a broader net and that its tragedy may be all the greater.

As always, Tolkien is a master story teller. It is a wonder to have a new book by J.R.R. Tolkien, and wonderful.

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